February 2nd, 2009
12:59 PM ET

Mr. Smith Returns to Washington

Anne Kim
Third Way

If you’re a respiratory therapist, a recreational bicyclist, a victim of Lyme disease, or concerned about animal cruelty or Third World farming practices, Washington has a champion for you. On Capitol Hill, lobbyists for business, trade associations and interest groups outnumber members of Congress by a ratio of 64 to 1.

But if you’re someone with kids earning $70,000 a year, someone’s who’s saving for college, saving for retirement and hoping your parents stay well—if you’re living the life of a typical middle-class American family—well, the last eight years in Washington have been a black hole for the middle class.

Middle-class Americans–people earning between $40,000 to $100,000–are too “rich” for most current government programs like college Pell grants, Medicaid, or the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers. And they don’t benefit from increases in the minimum wage—as popular as that policy is. On the other hand, they’re not rich enough to benefit from the conservative trickle-down policies of the Bush years, such as cuts to the capital gains tax. Instead, they’ve simply been forgotten.

Today, the middle class finally got a voice when President Obama and Vice President Biden announced the launch of a new task force on the middle class. Its goal is to pull the middle class out of the financial hole they’ve fallen into over the last eight years. We did a report that shows that since 2000, the typical middle-class family lost out on a total of more than $90,000 in wealth when home values, 401(k)s and salaries are taken into account.

But more than just getting the middle class back on its feet, this taskforce is also focused on helping middle-class people get ahead—helping families send their kids to college, save for a comfortable retirement, balance work and family, start a business or care for aging parents. This is the kind of change we believe in because no government effort has ever tackled these priorities in a concerted way.

We should never turn our back on the plight of those who are struggling to enter the middle class or whose grip on the middle class is tenuous—and Vice President Biden made that clear in his remarks at the launch of this task force. But it’s time for Washington to pay more attention to a forgotten group that works hard, pays taxes and feels it’s on its own—and that’s the American middle class. Bravo.

Editor's Note: Anne Kim is the Director of the Economic Program at Third Way, a progressive Washington, DC-based think tank.

Filed under: Joe Biden • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    @ SAM in GA.......... have you ACTUALLY READ THE BILL????

    IF you are middle-class you WILL receive a tax break. For the last, eight years Bush & Co., gave the wealthiest 1% a nice tax break. Now is your turn!

    READ before you complain...... don't just listen to AM radio & Faux News!

    February 2, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  2. Sam in GA

    I'm middle-class and I haven't seen anything in the stimulous plan that applies to me. When the TARP passed last year it was supposed to eliminat the AMT which would help me. But am I going to have to pay it this year? How do I find out if indeed I won't? After this year I won't be getting my homestead exemption on my property taxes any more. I'll probably pay more property taxes than I ever have and my home is worth less than ever. When the middle class is wiped out, only the rich will be paying taxes. Why don't the politicians think about that when they are negotiating for tax cuts.

    February 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  3. tanyagreen

    One of those middle class families that feel like we have been living in the black hole during the Bush era. Have a graduate degree but still confused about what the heck happened to our economy. Could we spend less time on entertainment news and more on the vital issues of the economy. Really would like more details about what is happening and less on how to live on food stamps... ...

    February 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  4. Michael "C"Lorton, Virginia

    So well said; so well written and so well true. I have been in the middle class for quite some time--and I have come to the conclusion: There are three classes of individuals:

    The Wealthy--who do not work and pay hardly any taxes
    The Middle Class--who do most of the work and pay [all] of the taxes
    The Poor--they exist as a reminder to the middle class.

    But soon I will be exiting the middle class--retirement--and I surely don't have any favorable words for all of those who are about to enter-they may try to change their views of the middle class--and if they change the structre of the middle class---well that's is going to upset the current balance of the class structure--but as the saying goes---YES WE CAN--and be careful what you wish for--it just may come true.

    February 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm |